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Mich. counties, businesses clash on smoking bans

Publication Date: 2009-01-27
  • Publication:Michigan Live

Northern Michigan logger Roger Griffin got so upset about the anti-smoking restrictions Charlevoix County imposed on local businesses that he filed a lawsuit...

The hopes of Griffin and four other plaintiffs are riding on the Michigan Supreme Court, which is weighing a legal question that affects workplaces across the state: Can communities put more stringent smoking rules in place than lawmakers?

Courts already have ruled that only the Legislature can ban smoking in restaurants and bars. But local governments have been prohibiting smoking inside other businesses, prodded by health advocates worried about the risks of secondhand smoke.

The movement started in Marquette a dozen years ago but has gained momentum more recently, spreading to 21 counties and three cities that represent nearly half of Michigan's population...

It's one thing if the Legislature requires businesses to have separate, ventilated smoking rooms, Frederick says.

"We can live with that," he said. "But if a state statute doesn't make me, how does a local health department have the authority to do that?"

Jim Young, a lawyer for the counties, says Michigan law clearly lets county officials regulate smoking.

"All the health department is doing is implementing its duties under the health code--prevent environmental contamination, take steps to protect health and prevent disease," he said.